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Bethan Gray’s Inky Dhow Collection at the Milan Design Week

For her upcoming Inky Dhow Collection, which will be launched at Salone del Mobile, Bethan Gray collaborated with innovative makers across the globe – from Muscat-based master craftsman Mohammad Reza Shamsian to Stoke-on-Trent based ceramic brand 1882 Ltd. 

Visitors will be able to immerse themselves into an enveloping ‘Inky Dhow’ universe, where an installation of furniture, textiles, rugs, hand blown glass and ceramics, will be on show at Rosanna Orlandi’s eponymous gallery in Milan’s Magenta district. Exciting and enticing all the senses, there will be talks demonstrating the exquisite craftsmanship and innovative techniques imbued into every piece Bethan designs.

‘Inky Dhow’ is an evolution of the original ‘Dhow’ drawing Bethan first made while on a trip to Oman, which was then expertly translated into an intricate marquetry pattern by Muscat-based master craftsman Mohammad Reza Shamsian and his team of highly skilled artisans, using 16th century marquetry techniques combined with cutting-edge technology.

The pattern is originally inspired by the billowing movement of the striped sails on the dhow boats sailing in the Gulf of Oman out to the Arabian Sea. Bethan took another turn of the design when she projected it across a staircase for a project with Christie’s in London. Enamored with the way the lines appeared thicker, reverberating up and down the stairs, Bethan decided to explore the Dhow pattern on a larger scale.

Last year’s lockdown gave Bethan the time to reconnect with the physical, meditative art of making, experimenting with calligraphy brushes, pens, pencils and cobalt-hued ink from which ‘Inky Dhow’ was born. For a printed leather collaboration with Bill Amberg, she painted the pattern as big as the size of the hide to ensure no quality of resolution was lost when transferred digitally in the printing process.

This life-size drawing also caught the imagination of Emily Johnson, founder of 1882 Ltd., who invited Bethan to reproduce the pattern onto hand thrown earthenware vases, with the designer’s hand guided only by her gut instinct and expert eye.

The installation at the Rossana Orlandi Gallery will showcase not only these painterly pieces – where the leather will be used to upholster Bethan’s new Ripple sofa and armchair, also being shown for the first time in Milan – but will also see ‘Inky Dhow’ construed as a marquetry finish on the Shamsian collection of cabinetry and across the tops of the brass-based ‘Lustre’ table, transformed by weaving silk and wool  rugs into rugs for the Milan-based rug company CC-Tapis, and Murano glass lighting hand blown in collaboration with Baroncelli.

The past pandemic year has also afforded Bethan a new personal vision. “Designing furniture may have been what I studied, and how I’ve forged my career for more than 20 years, but furniture is simply one of the many vehicles through which I want to express myself.”

These pieces celebrate intricate, time-honoured techniques injected with a fresh, modern edge as executed through Bethan’s unique lens. “Using different craft techniques has allowed ‘Inky Dhow’ to grow into many things, but the most exciting thing is that while they all work as stand-alone pieces, they also harmonise beautifully together,” Bethan enthuses. 

When: 7-12 June, 2022

Location: Rossana Orlandi Gallery, Via Matteo Bandella, 14, Milano (MI), Italy

Collection details: 

Shamsian Collection, Inky Dhow Bar Cabinet – Bird’s-Eye Maple Veneer Marquetry 

Shamsian Collection, Inky Dhow 3 Door Cabinet – Bird’s-Eye Maple Veneer Marquetry 

Shamsian Collection, Inky Dhow Lustre Coffee Table – Bird’s-Eye Maple Veneer Marquetry, Spun Brass

Shamsian Collection, Inky Dhow Lustre Side Table – Bird’s-Eye Maple Veneer Marquetry, Spun Brass

Ripple Collection, Inky Dhow Ripple 3 Seat Sofa – Digitally Printed Bill Amberg Leather 

Ripple Collection, Inky Dhow Ripple Armchair – Digitally Printed Bill Amberg Leather 

Cc-Tapis, Inky Dhow Rug – Himalayan Wool And Pure Silk 

1882 Ltd, Seven Sisters Vases – Earthenware, Hand Painted By Bethan Gray Available in 12cm, 26cm, 22cm, 16cm, 40cm, 32cm, 55cm variations.

Baroncelli, handblown Murano glass lighting & table lamp

ABOUT Bethan Gray:

Bethan Gray is one of the UK’s most celebrated furniture and homeware designers, having been awarded four Elle Decoration British Design Awards, including the coveted Best British Designer and The Best British Tableware Designer. She was also voted one of the 50 Best Travellers by Conde Nast Traveller.
 
Travel has always been influential to Bethan Gray’s designs, having amassed a global network of over 400 craftspeople and been fortunate to go on trips to India, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, South America and beyond. Bethan uses her experiences, knowledge and collaborators to inform her designs and the stories they tell and her new collections reflect this.
 

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